Living expatriate: cross-cultural living and culture support

Published on 10 November 2022

Becoming an expat is a major decision in the lives of your employees and a choice that they should make well-considered and carefully. For some, it might feel like an exciting adventure full of opportunities and life experiences while others might feel hesitant and guarded about an international relocation. Moving to countries with extreme cultural differences can particularly be a barrier for employees, due to misunderstanding and discomfort with the unknown. Therefore, educating your employees about the new culture and cross-cultural living is very important and might make the apprehensive employees rethink and reconsider their decision.

International employee benefits

Announce the relocation as an opportunity to your employees! There are many great benefits of working abroad as an expat, which maximizes participation and thriving placements only if employees are properly informed. Therefore, make sure that your employees know these advantages and what they entail. This for example should cover your company benefits, like plans on retirement, pensions, medical insurance, health policies, life insurance, raised salary, inconvenience fees and other advantageous extras for your employees. However, the advantages of a cross-cultural experience might even be more important for most employees, and they should surely not be forgotten. For example, experiencing, exploring, and learning about different cultures, climates, natures, foods, languages, customs, traditions, celebrations, religions and so on. For a lot of people, these life lessons are even more valuable than a raised salary. Make sure that your employees become aware of those factors that can help enrich their view of the world. Finally, the profit of having a large international network is also a major advantage of an international move. Having acquaintances stationed worldwide when coming back to their home country can pay off in many ways, such as friendships, business relations, advisory relations or even holiday addresses.

Successful relocation starts with showing your employees the benefits of moving abroad, only then you can reduce their resistance and convince them to relocate with your company. Therefore, make sure to educate your employees thoroughly about the destination!

Cross-cultural living: prepare your employees

Cross-cultural living can be challenging, exciting, fascinating, frustrating, transforming, educative, entertaining, and scary all at the same time. The feeling of disorientation and directionlessness when being immersed in an unknown culture is called a ‘culture shock,’ of which you can read more below. Often times, it has happened that when new expats are submerged into their new environment without proper preparation, they quit their assignment before is has ended. Therefore, it is important to prepare your employees carefully before their integration. This starts with preliminary cultural trainings, to teach employees about the host country and its corresponding culture. Secondly, the biggest tip upon arrival that you can give your employees is to let it all happen and take it in, with the corresponding respect to the citizens and their culture. As expats, you are guests in the host country, and your employees should have the mindset of being a representative and ambassador of both their home country and your company. Cultural differences might be annoying or questionable sometimes. Think about hygiene, behavioral norms, or the working environment within the new host country. Expats can struggle with these new manners, so important is to educate and guide them so they are prepared for what is to come. Advise them to let go easily, try to understand the culture and why a country has these manners. But also, try new things from the host country, like local foods and customs, learn the language and befriend a local who can explain things and take you along in the city. In these ways, expats will understand better what the hosting culture means, which creates understanding and acceptance. This makes living abroad in a country with a strange culture much easier and way more fun!

Culture shock

It is important for your employees to prevent having too much of a culture shock, as this is one of the biggest reasons that expats retrieve from their work-mission abroad. A culture shock means having negative feelings of disorientation, nervousness, and discomfort of a new environment, that can lead up to anxiety and unsettledness in the host country of new expats. The first period or arriving in a new country can be very intense, and some adjustment periods take longer than others. If either your employees or other members of their family cannot adjust to this new culture that they are sent to, chances are that the whole family will get unstable, annoyed, depressed, homesick, and even start isolating themselves. When these negative feelings continue for too long, expat families often return to their home country before finishing the work-mission. Therefore, it is important to prepare these new expats with the tips above and assure them that it will get better in time. Because step by step, they will learn more about their host country and they will even start to enjoy this interesting new culture!

Relocation management

Are you planning to send employees abroad for a short-term or long-term relocation? Discover our relocation management services to guide you through the entire process.